Jr Axemen hockey program continues to provide great hockey experiences

Axemen Coaches Burns & Richards excited for continued partnership

For the past 15 years, male & female hockey players of all ages and skill levels have had the opportunity to continue their hockey development by taking part in the leading spring hockey program which takes place at Acadia University Arena.  The long-time partnership between the University of Acadia and the Atlantic Hockey Group has benefited thousands of young hockey players.

Established in 2003, the Jr Axemen program was the vision of Darren Burns, Head Coach of the Acadia Axemen hockey program and Charlie Bourgeois, Director of the Atlantic Hockey Group.  The objective was to offer a local program for players and families lead by the many high-level coaches we have in the area. To provide an alternative to having families forced to travel to Halifax or other major centers to take part in spring hockey.  It was also very important to make available programs for players of all skill levels – for the Elite to recreational players.  Says Bourgeois “With the great success of the Jr Axemen program I believe it is fair to say that we have exceeded expectations.  The success of the program is due to the hard work of many great hockey people.”

Mark Richards, a long-time assistant coach with the Acadia Axemen (entering his 16th season) as well as minor hockey is the Director of the program.  Mark has also operated the very successful Acadia Selects program which takes part in the Elite spring hockey division.  Among his many responsibilities, Mark is responsible for bringing in the most qualified coaches to work with our players. Says Mark, “we are very fortunate to have a great hockey culture in the Valley area. Our teams are led by a group of very passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable coaches.  The ultimate goal is to find the balance of high-level training as well as providing our teams the opportunity to compete against teams at the appropriate level allowing us to challenge players of all levels.”

Darren Burns, Head Coach of the Acadia Axemen (entering his 18th season) expressed his excitement saying, “We are very excited to be continuing our partnership with the Atlantic Hockey Group. This partnership began many years ago when a local minor hockey parent explained to me about this awesome spring program his son was involved with Burns said. He said the only drawback is he had to travel to Halifax three to four times a week and he said wouldn’t it be great to have something like this in the valley. I immediately walked away from this conversation saying why don’t we have something like this for kids in the valley. Our kids should have the same opportunity as any kid throughout the country.”

The success of the program is largely due to the fact that we offer a program at a fair and reasonable fee. The scheduling is geared towards reducing travel and accommodations which can be the biggest cost for families taking part in spring hockey programs. Jr Axemen teams have the opportunity to host games as teams from across the province travel to Acadia University to compete.  Majority of games for Jr Axemen teams would involve a day trip into Halifax to play teams from all regions of NS as well as NB, PEI & NL.

“There’s a reason that less and less kids are playing hockey. We need to be mindful of cost and to much hockey. Fact is by the time many kids are old enough to make their own decisions they realize the fun isn’t there anymore. They equate hockey to travel, and a regimented routine in order to play the world’s greatest game”, said Burns.

“It’s so easy to see how fortunate we are to have this partnership. The benefits for the kids and families are endless”, Burns said. “It’s pretty simple, with the Jr Axemen and prospects series kids can play hockey longer through out the year here in the valley. Travel is reduced dramatically, which saves families hundreds of dollars and eliminates countless hours spent in a vehicle. Any educator or hockey coach who is being truthful will tell you this. The three most important things are ice time, good coaching and most importantly having fun. Our programs create just that. Anytime you can take travel time out of a sport, and the kids are at home more to take part in other activities and be a kid is a huge bonus.”

Former NHLer and Director of the Atlantic Hockey Group, Charlie Bourgeois, looks forward to continuing to grow its spring hockey Series “Having experienced hockey people like Darren Burns and Mark Richards involved in our programs allows us to provide our players and families with a great experience.  They are quality people who bring a significant commitment to the local hockey community.  I look forward to working with this group for many years to come.”

Burns said of Bourgeois, “I think Charlie’s always been ahead of the curve. It’s been great to see this program take a step back and add their prospects series which is another excellent program which provides kids an opportunity to play in the spring but practice and play a little less in terms of hours a week. This gives families options, for the child who might like to continue on the ice a little longer in the spring, but not three or four times a week.  It also is an opportunity for coaches to flourish and receive greater opportunities as well.”

The mission statement for the Jr Axemen and Acadia Selects program is to offer young athletes an exceptional developmental environment where skill, work ethic, and character are the focus. A commitment to helping players reach their full potential to play at the next level in their hockey careers.

It’s been tremendous to see many kids outside of players benefit from the program as well. Young referees, score keepers are able to earn money and gain experience through the spring season. It’s cyclical money stays at home with our youth and our businesses.  We have a state of the art facility here at Acadia and as kids get older and progress, the training facilities and educators are here to help with nutrition, strength training, rehabilitation and sports sciences. It’s all under one roof.  It also exposes children to University athletes who have been through minor hockey and realize how important it is for them to mentor young kids and make sure they have fun.

In closing Burns stated, “I hope people in the valley take the time to look at this as a great opportunity to see the benefits of this tremendous experience. There’s a reason the Atlantic ‎Hockey Group is as strong as ever. Our University Hockey program is proud and privileged to be able to work with youth all year long and to be able to help in this partnership as well.”

The goal is to provide players with the opportunity to have the best possible hockey development and to continue to make our program one of the premier hockey organizations in the country.

For more information on the program please contact Mark Richards at acadiaselects@gmail.com